Is your body well-balanced? Without realizing it, we tend to work one side of the body harder than the other. Whether you are right-handed or left-handed, the side you engage more frequently will be stronger.

It’s likely you won’t notice the effects of these behaviors until performing a single-sided activity, such as swinging a tennis racquet or brushing your teeth, with your less dominant hand. And while playing favorites is a natural tendency, over time these seemingly innocent habits can cause imbalances throughout the skeletal system that can result in chronic pain or injury.

To keep your body safe, muscle groups of the same limb need to be exercised equally. Think of your joints and adjoining muscles as a cable and pulley system that requires balance on each end to function correctly. When the workload is constantly applied to only a single side of a limb, such as when practicing a biceps curl, these muscles tighten and tug on the opposing muscles (the triceps), causing imbalances and atrophy.

Achieving a healthy body is a balancing act in need of constant practice. Here are some easy exercises to strike a better balance in your body:

Perk up your posture. Take a moment to assess your posture in the mirror. If your shoulders are rounded to the front, hands are forward-facing, or your ears extend past your collarbone, your posture would benefit from some strength training. There are a number of factors that contribute to poor body positioning, such as certain muscles compensating for others due to a prior injury, daily habits, or even diseases such as osteoarthritis. But for those who need a simple posture fix, your solution could be as basic as incorporating specific upper-body exercises into your routine.

If you’re a habitual huncher, the muscles lining the posterior part of the back tend to be elongated and underworked, while the anterior chest muscles are taut. This pulls the shoulders forward.

Quick fix: Perform 10 push-ups followed by 10 standing rows

Push-up
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Push-up
Standing row
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Standing row

Standing row

  • Securely loop a resistance band to a sturdy object. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and grasp the free end of the band firmly with your right hand.
  • Pull the band in toward your ribs until you feel a squeeze in your shoulder blade. Hold for two counts, then release the band back to the starting position.

Lower leg love. It’s very common to be quad-dominant, meaning that when you perform activities such as standing, squatting, walking, or stair climbing, you’re inclined to push through the front of your foot instead of through your heels. Eventually, the quad muscles, located on the top of the thigh, begin to grow stronger while the corresponding hamstring muscles, at the back of the thigh, weaken. This affects not only the function of the leg but can also produce lower-back pain.

Quick fix: Perform 15 squats followed by 15 hamstring curls

Squat
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Squat
Hamstring curls
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Hamstring curls

Hamstring curl

  • Start in a supine position, with your heels resting on a towel and toes pointed up.
  • Smoothly and simultaneously pull your heels back and in toward your glutes as you lift your hips high, forming a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Squeeze your glutes for one count, then slowly lower your hips and straighten your legs back to the starting position.

Amped-up arms. The biceps curl is a popular pick when working out the upper body. After all, nothing fills out a sleeveless T-shirt quite like a bulging set of biceps. But, if you’re in the practice of working only the anterior part of your arm, chances are your biceps’ buddy, the triceps, is getting lonely, lengthy, and limp.

Quick fix: Perform 10 biceps curls followed by 10 triceps extensions

Biceps curl
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Biceps curl
Triceps extensions
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Triceps extensions

Triceps extension

  • Standing tall with feet hip-width apart, firmly grip one free weight between your hands and elevate it above your head.
  • Bend at your elbows to lower the weight behind your head, then bring the weight back to the extended overhead position. Avoid this improper form by securing your elbows close to your ears throughout the entire exercise.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. To learn more about her virtual training program, go to ashleyblakefitness.com.